DAVIE HAY took over as Celtic manager 37 years ago this weekend and kicked-started a rollercoaster four seasons in the Hoops hot-seat.
CQN will herald the eventful campaigns in which the former Scotland international won the most dramatic title race in living memory and added a Scottish Cup for good luck.
Here is the second instalment from Davie Hay’s excellent autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin’, co-authored by his long-time friend Alex Gordon – in another CQN EXCLUSIVE series.
THANKFULLY, we picked up on 29 October with a resounding 5-1 triumph over Hibs at Parkhead and that was a lot more like it. We followed that up with a 2-1 success against Rangers at their place and a 4-0 victory over Motherwell.
Three games, three wins and eleven goals scored. I was happy enough. And then my old club St.Mirren derailed us at Love Street with a 4-2 triumph. It was back to the drawing board. We then went on a seven-game unbeaten run before losing again to Fergie’s mob at Pittodrie.
It was a hard-fought encounter and I thought we deserved at least a point, but they edged it 1-0. I wasn’t downhearted by our display although I hasten to admit I hate losing at anything. Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.
We regained some pride when we beat Aberdeen 1-0 with a Jim Melrose goal in Glasgow and I realised games against Alex’s team were the acid test for Celtic. Dundee United, too. We didn’t manage to beat them in our four league games in my first season. They turned us over twice at Tannadice and drew twice at Parkhead.
They were an infuriating team to play against. They would leave you with the onus of making all the first moves and then they would pick you off with their counter-attacking play.
It wasn’t pretty to watch, but it did get results and you couldn’t argue with that. It wasn’t the way I would ever ask my Celtic team to perform, though. I thought then – and I still do today – that you have to entertain the fans who have saved up their hard-earned cash to go through the turnstiles on matchday hoping to see something that might bring a little light into their lives.
The title eventually went to Aberdeen. I was disappointed, but I had to accept that Fergie had a settled team and had consistent performers such as Jim Leighton, Alex McLeish, Willie Miller, Eric Black, John Hewitt and Mark McGhee, a player I would later sign for Celtic. They had also lifted the European Cup-Winners’ Cup by defeating the legendary Real Madrid in the final only a year beforehand.
They were a team with a lot of pedigree and I knew they would be the side to beat in the future.
We went all the way in the League Cup and I was delighted to overthrow the Dons in the replay at Hampden with a Mark Reid goal taking us into a showdown meeting with Rangers. It was always going to be a tough game and so it proved as referee Bob Valentine booked six players and awarded three penalty-kicks. Unfortunately, two of them were for Rangers.
It wasn’t a classic confrontation and our opponents appeared to rely on massive kicks down the field from their goalkeeper, Peter McCloy. He hoofed the ball from one end of the pitch to another while completely bypassing his team’s midfield.
I could hear Jock Wallace yelling from the dug-out next to me, ‘Get it down the pitch, Peter.’ It was a busy afternoon for our central defenders, Roy Aitken and Tom McAdam, as they were bombarded by long, high balls from McCloy.
Ally McCoist was in his element as he ran at the heart of our defence and he claimed a hat-trick. We were two goals down at one stage before Brian McClair clawed one back and then Mark Reid rattled in the equaliser from a spot-kick to take the game to extra-time. It could have gone either way as the game ebbed and flowed for the next half-hour and Rangers were awarded their second penalty by the ref.
McCoist stepped up once more, but his accuracy was lacking as he hit the ball too close to Pat Bonner. Our keeper got down to block the effort, but couldn’t hold onto the ball and, as luck would have it, the damn thing rebounded straight back to McCoist who tucked it away.
That left the Scottish Cup as our only hope of achieving a trophy.
TOMORROW: The return of Davie (Part Three)